End of the road for nuclear storage?

President Barack Obama presented quite the “to do” list when he released his budget last week. This one may be among the most challenging: Finding a place to put all the nuclear junk the nation’s nuclear power plants are creating.

Obama’s budget has scaled back funding for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. It doesn’t say how much it’s scaled back, only that the feds will spend money on the Nevada mountain project “to those costs necessary to answer enquiries from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, while the Administration devises a new strategy toward nuclear waste disposal.”

Nuclear proponents have hoped for years that Yucca Mountain would be the answer to the #1 problem plaguing the nuclear industry.

The waste is piling up, of course. In Minnesota, the Prairie Island nuclear plant’s waste has been stored in dry casks for years. Over the years the Legislature has approved additional storage there, over the objections of the Prairie Island Mdewankanton Dakota Reservation. The current capacity will run out between 2013 and 2014.

Xcel Energy built a three-acre facility at its Monticello plant, to store spent fuel in steel containers inside concrete vaults.

Both locations are going to be around for awhile, judging by a May 2007 letter to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that might be the solution for the foreseeable future. ” I believe a better short-term solution is to store nuclear waste on-site at the reactors where it is produced, or at a designated facility in the state where it is produced, until we find a safe, long-term disposal solution that is based on sound science.”

The contractor that was developing Yucca Mountain saw the end coming. Last month it laid off half of the 1,100 employees at the site.

It was supposed to open in 1998.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission currently has 17 applications for 26 new nuclear reactors in the U.S.

  • mulad

    A very frustrating situation. $9 billion spent on a facility that was located in one of the worst possible places. We can’t just keep piling the stuff up in flood-prone areas next to nuclear power plants (they’re usually built next to rivers).

    As much as I wouldn’t want to see Minnesota become a national repository for the stuff, we probably have some of the most stable ground in the country and would be a much better place for spent nuclear fuel than earthquake-prone Nevada. Then again, I’m not a geologist, so I imagine there may be issues besides earthquakes to worry about.

    As Obama’s 2007 letter suggests, Xcel and the folks at the capitol in St. Paul really need to start looking at an in-state solution for the problem of waste from Monticello and Prairie Island. There’s probably a disused mine somewhere up north that could be retrofitted fairly quickly for temporary storage while we get a long-term facility built (and I’d push for building one of our own rather than waiting for the feds to act).

  • http://www.ambulancedriver.net Duke Powell

    I’ve been to Yucca Mountain, walked in the storage areas, and spoke to the scientists and engineers. I stood on top of the mountain and took in the most amazing topography I have ever seen.

    Afterwards I came to the conclusion that if you ever wanted to get rid of anything, this was the place to put it.

    The only credible reason not to store radio active waste at Yucca is the transportation issue, and that is a stretch. Nevada’s Atty General told me that,

    “everyone agrees that the waste is safe to transport after 80 years.” Well, most people who actually know something about the issue will tell you it can be safely transported today.

  • Beth

    Seriously? Your “expert” Mike Gregorson on air right now (6:27 PM) is supposed to be an expert on nuclear energy and he pronounces the word like Bush did? How can we even give the guy a bit of credibility when he can’t even pronounce the word? I can’t even listen to him to tell if the guy has any good thoughts. Ugh. I thought that pronunciation went the way of the dinosaur with Bush going home to Texas.